Hurt People Hurt People: A Lesson My Dog Taught Me

I noticed a funny thing about my dog the other day. He's pretty small, about 19 pounds, smart, neurotic, and a typical Yorkie in every way. He's a lover, not a fighter. He will yank on his leash until he chokes himself silly just to get a little closer to anyone he thinks will pay him some positive attention. Usually he gets it, too, because he's pretty darn cute. And that's not just my opinion; everyone he approaches makes those little ooh and aah noises that are reserved almost exclusively for puppies and babies, so I know he is a likable little guy. I named him Happy, and it's a fitting name, because he seems to give some happiness to every human he meets.

But here's the thing I've noticed. If we are out walking and we pass another dog on a leash--say, a bulldog, for example--and that dog shows the slightest bit of interest in Happy but continues on its way, suddenly Happy shows a different side of himself. He lunges, he barks, he growls, and he doesn't stop. It sounds very aggressive and hostile, and the owner of the other dog usually gives us one of those sideways glances that say why-don't-you-get-your-dog-under-control-before-he-kills-someone.

But like I said, Happy is a lover--NOT a fighter. If you didn't know him, you might not believe it. But I've figured him out. He wants to make contact with that other dog SO BAD. He wants to run over and take turns sniffing butts. He wants to run around in little circles and get chased. He wants to make a new doggie friend. And he thinks he's being rejected. And dogs is dogs, you know? So when I watch the other dog being led away by Ms. Far Superior Owner of a Dog Who Would NEVER Make Such a Scene, I pay special attention to that dog. And nine times out of ten, that dog wants to run and play with Happy, too. He's just not allowed to show it or act on it. And Happy misinterprets it, he feels shunned, and he does what so many animals do--he lashes out in frustration and anger and he scares people. Inside he is whimpering and wanting attention but unsure how to ask for it; on the outside he looks like a rabid, crazy creature, good fer nothin' but a good beatin' and a puttin' down.

I get it. People do the same thing.


ChickenFreak said...

Poor puppy. :( I wanted to respond to this, but I couldn't think of anything sensible to contribute, because you've expressed it so well. So I'm left with "poor puppy".

Happy Dog said...

Yeah, it was a bit metaphorical as well. Aren't we all a bit guilty of this sometimes?

Anonymous said...

Guilty sometimes more often than we would like to admit. It is hard, sometimes, to admit that, despite how smart we are and how we are capable of rationalizing and controling our behavior, our inner puppies get wounded and we act out. It is when we hurt those we love that we realize just how easy it is to hurt. After reading this post, I have realized that I have lashed out at someone that I love because I was hurt. The sad part is realizing that I can never undo the damage. Thanks for the post. This one hit home in a very big way.

Happy Dog said...

@Anon: Thanks for your comment. I think all of us can relate to the "poor puppy" as ChickenFreak called him. Sometimes we bark, and sometimes we get barked at, and it sucks no matter which leash you're on.

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